Friday, November 8, 2013

Puzzles in horror games. Part 4.

Fast note: Due to me getting caught up in a lot of technical work this blog entry is a lil bit late and I also missed a horror tip final week. Gonna attempt and be better in the future! :)

The fourth portion in the puzzle series will be about a certain "function" that I am sure you are all aware of. Backtracking. This is usually to regarded as to be a large difficulty in adventure games and seem to especially plague survival horror like Resident Evil. It is often blamed for becoming a solution of negative design and style, and it can frequently be extremely annoying. Backtracking does not usually need to be negative though and may possibly in fact be a component in growing the immersion.

To start up, I would like to define the various sorts of backtracking:

Compulsory backtracking
In some games, the design forces the player to do backtracking and games like Resident Evil and the newer Castlevania are complete of this. After collecting a specific item, the player demands to backtrack to a location far back exactly where the item is to be utilised. Occasionally the location is identified (for instance highlighted on a map) and other instances it is up to player to figure out exactly where to use the item. To make the journey back more fun, some games add new enemies, obstacles and/or change the atmosphere. Other occasions the player easy wants to grind their way back. Specially when the target location is unknown it can be a extremely frustrating encounter and I know of instances in Castlevania where I fairly much searched by means of the complete game ahead of obtaining out exactly where the newly identified item was to be utilized.

Forgotten item backtracking
Adventure games are typically primarily based around the player exploring environments and when significantly looking is needed, possibilities are some thing will be missed. This can lead to the player not possessing picked up an important item, carried out a certain task, and so forth and when arriving at an obstacle one particular wants to backtrack to find out what was missed. This kind is distinct from the compulsory backtracking in that it is not explicitly created, but stems from the fact a player has not been effective when browsing. This circumstance can be extremely annoying to end up in as it may not be obvious where to appear for the missing item/event. In many adventure games the player is some kind of scrap-collector and the usability of an item is not clear until collected (if even then...). Therefore it is difficult to get any hints from the examining obstacle one is stuck at.

In my opinion the forgotten item sort of backtracking is the most annoying and not constantly predictable from a design and style standpoint. Due to the fact of that I am going to talk about how to go about solving this 1st, and will be employing Braid as an example. In Braid it is often attainable to solve a puzzle when encountered as no items or upgrades are needed in order to locate the right resolution. Alternatively the player demands to come up ingenious techniques of utilizing the game mechanics and at times easier puzzles want to be solved in order figure a harder one out. When encountering a puzzle the player is constantly specific that a puzzle can be solved and can never ever be missing any particular item or triggered event. This approach is a an "extreme" way of solving the missing item dilemma in that it never relies on preceding places (note: Braid does rely on it in on a single occasion).

But what if one desires to pick up things and such as element of the gameplay? A way to solving this is either to let force-feed the player with things, putting them in such apparent place that they are not possible to use and/or have sub obstacles that call for the a specific occasion to be triggered for the player to continue. A lot of action adventure games makes use of this method. One more way to deal with it is to usually spot the products close to the obstacle and removing the need to do any backtracking. This strategy is what we used a lot in the Penumbra games and it needs that the player knows that things are often close (one thing we did not totally succeed with) . If the player nonetheless thinks that the necessary item may well be anyplace, then it does not matter that it in reality is very close. Also, this approach needs one hundred% consistency and if some puzzle all of a sudden needs an item way back, the player will nonetheless assume it is nearby and never ever go looking far adequate. Finally generating the puzzle options a lot more "realistic" and intuitive will also increase the scenario as the player can then simpler figure out what may well be needed for overcoming the obstacle.

Although there exist solutions for the forgotten item backtracking difficulty, they are not with no flaws. On the other hand, with the compulsory backtracking it is effortless to fix. Just remove the require of backtracking, appropriate? On closer inspection, it turns out that it is not that simple. 1st of all, in open ended games there is a need to spread out puzzles and will for that reason usually be some type of backtracking. The issue of not understanding where to go can nevertheless be addressed although and several open ended games has a map with blinking hot spots, arrows, etc indicating exactly where the player should go. However, often this is not wanted either and the enjoyment of the game might come from exploring the game with out becoming spoon-fed the subsequent action all the time.

Going back to Braid, which even although it does not have the forgotten item problem, nevertheless has some compulsory backtracking. Unless the player solves all of the puzzles in linear style, there is a want to go back through levels and discover the final puzzle pieces required. Now Braid could have let the player instantaneously teleport by way of some menu to every single location, but in my opinion that would ruin the game. By being forced to traverse the planet 1 is more immersed in the game world and even though the activity is not enjoyable in itself, it still enhances the encounter. To be fair, Braid has very minor backtracking compared to other games, but I still think it is an critical observation.

Back to the forgotten item backtracking. Is this truly always a negative thing? As mentioned in the options for overcoming it, a remedy largely indicates limiting the player somehow and forcing one by means of the game. Limits can be a good thing, but if a game should give the player a feeling of exploration then it is virtually not possible to remove it. Getting some variety of aggravation is most likely vital in order to give the correct knowledge. The issue does not lie in removing the aggravation, but rather limiting and managing it.

To sum things up: the difficulty of backtracking that at first glance just appears like an annoyance, may actually be a very critical portion of generating a game. A designer ought to not try and remove the aggravation caused by backtracking, but as an alternative limit it and use it to increase the player knowledge. Frustration is a big component of life and just attempting to remove it from a game will only outcome a brainless and much less satisfying experience.

As usually we are really curious to know what you believe about all this!

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